‘Not my will but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42)
In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) Jesus teaches us to pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Often we can think of that prayer in terms of asking God to bring His kingdom ‘out there.’ We can look at the state of the world around us; we can see the brokenness in our communities and the harrowing effects of wars that have displaced tens of millions, and our prayer in response is, ‘Loving Father, let your Kingdom come!’
But in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42), Jesus shows us that praying, ‘let your Kingdom come,’ involves more than simply asking the God of Heaven to bring His Kingdom to us. It also involves surrendering ourselves to Him that he might bring His kingdom through us.
The prayer of surrender is a prayer in which we choose to give up anything that is getting in the way of God remaking us into the image of Jesus; anything that is stopping us from living a full life (John 10:10) that brings resurrection life to those around us.
Some of the things getting in the way of us living life to the full, we suspect or even know aren’t good for us. But some of those things are neutral, or even good.
Jesus was asked by his Father to surrender getting married and having a family. He was asked to surrender decades of fruitful ministry and time with loved ones. He was even asked to surrender his life.
The sacrifices we may be asked to make may not always be that extreme, but at times surrendering our will to God’s may feel like agony, just like it did for Jesus (Mark 14:33-34).
The way through this isn’t to just ‘grin and bear it’, nor is it to give up because the thought of trying to live God’s way seems too hard. Rather it is to be honest with our loving Father, just like Jesus was, and allow Him to give us the strength and grace to get us to the place where we can joyfully say, ‘Not my will but yours be done.’
Praying by yourself
If there is an area of your life you are finding hard to surrender to God, you may find it helpful to set aside some time this week to pray and journal about it.
Use the lines Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, which all have parallels in the Lord’s Prayer, as guides for your own prayers:
Abba Father, everything is possible for you / Our Father in Heaven, hallowed is your name
Take time to remind yourself of God’s love for you, His delight in you, and His ability to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Choosing to surrender our whole lives to God can only come from a place of deep trust in God’s love for us and in His desire and ability to do us good.
If it is possible, take this cup from me / Deliver me from evil
Take this opportunity to explain to God exactly how you feel about surrendering this part of your life to Him. Be honest with God about the hardships of following Him: the things you feel like you are missing or will miss out on, the sacrifices you are making or may have to make. Be as honest with God as you can, knowing that He loves and accepts you and already knows what is in your heart.
Yet not my will but yours be done / Let your Kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Re-read everything you have just written and, if you can, choose to surrender those things to God, saying, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’
If you are not yet in that place, be honest with God about that too. You may find it helpful to pray something like this, ‘Loving Father, I don’t want to surrender this part of my life to you. But I want to want to. Please change my heart.’ Remember that even Jesus went back to pray the same prayers three times before he had peace about surrendering his will to his Father’s (Mark 14:41).
Praying with others
We see in the account of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that surrendering to God was something that was both deeply personal – he went a stone’s throw away from his disciples so that he could pray by himself – but also something that happened in community: he took his disciples with him and asked that they would ‘watch and pray’.
If you are finding it hard to surrender an area of your life to God, talk to some trusted friends and ask them to ‘watch and pray’ for you. Ask them to pray that God would reveal his love to you in a greater way and that he would give you courage to trust him and ‘peace that transcends understanding’ (Philippians 4:4-7).
Praying with children
This week the children continued looking at the Lord’s Prayer, considering the phrase ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’ You can download the take home sheet to find out what they covered.
When you pray with your children this week, why not help them to write IOU notes for things that they have done, which they know have been wrong. Then lead them in a prayer admitting these things to God, thanking Him for His forgiveness. When you’re done, rip the pieces of paper into as tiny pieces as possible, to remind yourself that they are forgiven.
Then try doing the same for others: write down things that others have done to hurt you, pray a prayer of forgiveness, and rip them up to symbolise the fact that they have been removed once and for all.